Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Craigslist Success Story- Selling

My husband made an extra $10 this week selling an old storm door on Craigslist. When we got a new front door last summer, we decided to discontinue using the storm door. It had been in our garage for a year and it was time to say goodbye.

The storm door as installed with our old front door

We had the hinges and associated hardware but not the closer (the bar that attaches to keep the door from opening too wide/pulls the door shut). After posting it a few times for more money, we decided to try for $10. A guy called soon after, showed up, looked at it, and bought it. Awesome.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Thrifty Recipe- Terri's BBQ Green Beans

One of my mom's best friends used to make this for parties at their house. I used to request my mom make it for special occasions. Now, I look for excuses to make it. This last weekend, I brought it to a party and it was a hit! We were running late so I baked it at 375 for one hour and then 350 for 15 minutes. It's a simple recipe and the ingredients are thrifty- perfect.

Terri's BBQ Green Beans

5 Strips bacon
1 Small to medium onion, finely chopped
1 Cup brown sugar
1 Cup ketchup
1 Teaspoon ground mustard (OK to leave out if you don't have it)
3 Cans French-style green beans, drained

1. Fry the bacon on the stove until crispy. Remove and drain on paper towels.
2. In the bacon grease (you can pour some out if there is too much), cook the onion until soft and beginning to turn brown/carmelize.
3. Stir in the brown sugar, ketchup, and ground mustard and continue stirring until the brown sugar melts.
4. Combine the green beans with sauce mixture in an oven-safe dish and stir to coat all beans. Top with crumbled bacon.
5. Bake at 350 for around two hours, check every 15 minutes during the last half hour to ensure it isn't drying out.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Why it still makes sense to own your home

 Read an interesting article in the New York Times. Many people have been spooked by the real estate market downturn over the past few years, and have kept renting even when they could be buying a home. However, the benefits of home ownership, for many, outweigh the risks. Some key benefits include the fact that paying a mortgage is a way of forcing you to save money, avoidance of landlord issues, and the ability to live in good neighborhoods and school districts.

My husband is famous among his friends for his "rent vs buy" excel spreadsheet model. It takes into account taxes and the costs of renting and of buying and helps to show if renting or buying is better for a given person or family. If you are trying to make the tough decision, I encourage you to look online for rent vs buy calculators to help you make your decision.

In Defense of Home Ownership

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Air Conditioner Update

We are still without a working air conditioner, it's going on two weeks now. As I mentioned here, my husband decided to post on Craigslist to find someone to replace it. He has decided to go with a guy who gave a quote over the phone that sounded knowledgeable, gave a reasonable quote, and is able to provide a brand of air conditioner that is well-known and reliable. I insisted that he at least meet the guy in person before he hires him, so "Brian" is coming over Saturday morning. Next step, set up the installation date!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Cool idea- creating menus from grocery ads

Wow! This mom has turned coupons and blogging into a money-maker! Each week, she takes the ad and coupons from her local grocery store and creates a menu for seven meals plus a grocery list. There is a monthly subscription fee for her recipes and meal plans. What a good idea. Maybe I will try to create a week of menus from the Sunday ad circulars one of these weeks.... but I won't charge you for it.

Stay at home mom converts coupons into a career

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Thrifty Strategy- Take the bus to the State Fair

That's right, the Minnesota State Fair begins on Thursday and runs through Labor Day. My husband and I go every year and have many traditions that have to happen at the Fair!

One thrifty tradition is to use the special Free State Fair Park and Ride lots to park and get to the fair for free. No fighting traffic, and we get dropped off right at the entrance gate. We usually park at one near the University of Minnesota, but they are scattered near the Fairgrounds. In the suburbs, there are Express Busses to State Fair for $5 and Southwest Metro Transit State Fair express service for $5.

Once we get to the fair...

First, we have to see the fattest pig and get our paper Pig Ears to wear

And climb the DNR fire tower for an up-high view

See the bunnies

Check out the Miracle of Birth Barn

And of course I have to eat a deep-fried Snickers Bar on a stick and my husband has to have a Pronto Pup! I'm sure there will even be some new traditions this year since we're bringing our baby daughter.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Update on Target online coupons

A week or so ago, I wrote about how Target was offering some valuable coupons on their website for private label products. Today when I went back to their site to check what was new, all of the private label coupons were gone! What the heck? Maybe too many people were using them? Good thing I printed several that don't expire for another month.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Thrifty Strategy- Road Trippin'

Just back from a wonderful weekend celebrating the wedding of a dear friend. The wedding was full of personal touches and it was an honor to be a part of it. As the location of the wedding was about four hours away, it was time for a road trip!

Our road trips have taken on a new feeling since we had our daughter. Now, our stops are dictated by her naps and mood rather than by our schedule. In the past, we stopped as few times as possible and got back on the road as quickly as possible. Now when we stop, we need to spend some time to give her a chance to stretch and often to have her diaper changed and eat. We have gained a new appreciation for rest areas, those places along the interstate with bathrooms and picnic areas. A couple weeks ago, we spent some time at the St Cloud Rest Area on our way back from up north. On this weekend's trip, we packed a cooler with soda, water, cheese, yogurt, hot dogs, and ketchup and a bag of snacks, peanut butter, bread and buns. We had lunch on Friday at a beautiful park next to a river, and enjoyed hot dogs cooked over our one-burner camp stove. It was fun! On the way back today, we had peanut butter sandwiches and granola bars at the Menomonie Rest Stop while our daughter played in the grass.

Any favorite roadside places out there?

Friday, August 20, 2010

Thrifty Recipe- Thai Turkey Burgers

I made this for the first time last week- the flavor of the meat is amazing! I made some notes in parentheses. The ingredient list looks long but it's worth it. And ground turkey can be a thrifty choice if you buy it when on sale or with a coupon and freeze it until you need it.

Thai Turkey Burgers
From Classic Rachel Ray 30-Minute Meals page 27

Warm Pineapple Salsa
- 1 fresh cored pineapple (I just used a can of crushed pineapple)
- 1 tablespoon sesame oil
- 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 1/2 of a small red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
- 1/4 of a red onion, finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- 10-15 fresh basil leaves cut into strips (I didn't have fresh so used a few shakes of dried basil leaves)
- 1 and 1/3 pounds ground turkey (I used one pound and made smaller burgers)
- 1 inch gingerroot peeled and grated or 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger (I used dried ginger)
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 2 teaspoons curry powder
- Dash salt
- 2 scallions, finely chopped (I left this out)
- 4 rolls or hamburger buns of your choice
- Leaf lettuce

1. If using whole, cored pineapple: Drain and cut into pieces that will fit in food processor. Process to a coarse, chunky texture. If using canned, drain.

2. Heat sesame oil and crushed red pepper flakes in a skillet over medium-high heat until oil smokes. Add bell pepper and onions and cook 1-2 minutes. Add pineapple and heat through. Add brown sugar and cook 1-2 minutes. Remove from heat and add basil. Leave salsa in warm pan while you cook burgers.

3. Heat a nonstick skillet or griddle pan over medium-high heat. Combine turkey, ginger, garlic, soy sauce, curry powder, salt, and scallions. Form into 4 patties and cook on skillet, 4 minutes on each side. Serve on rolls with pineapple salsa and lettuce.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Are we taking longer to grow up?

This was quite an article. It discusses how it seems to be taking longer for the generation now in our 20's and 30's to "grow up." According to researchers, the five traditional milestones for adulthood are; completing school, leaving home, becoming financially independent, getting married and having a child. According to census data, in 1960, a much larger percentage of Americans had reached those milestones by age 30 than do today. The impacts of this change are affecting everything from health insurance regulation to fertility rates.

What is it about 20-Somethings?

Maybe my thrifty tips will help some people work on the "becoming financially independent" milestone!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Taking Craigslist too far? Air conditioner replacement?!

Our central air conditioner stopped working last Thursday. It's not just broken, we need a completely new unit. We got a couple quotes from companies around the area, but they seemed really high. So my husband posted the following on Craigslist:
My AC just died. It is a 2.5 Ton. I'm looking for quotes to install a new one and remove and dispose of my old a/c. My line will also require a flush. Please email or call xxxxx at xxxxxx.

•Location: xxxxxxxxxxxx
•Compensation: Will pay for the entire job (the new A/C and labor)
•This is a contract job.
•Principals only. Recruiters, please don't contact this job poster.
•Phone calls about this job are ok.
•Please do not contact job poster about other services, products or commercial interests

Really? We're considering randoms from Craigslist? He received probably 15 calls/emails that day. Now he's talking to each of them and having some come out and do estimates. So far the prices are lower and many of them are moonlighting from their full-time a/c installation jobs. Many are able to offer similar warranties to the ones installed by legitimate companies. I am not convinced.

Does this seem like a good idea to you? Leave a comment and let me know!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Sun Country Airlines : Fare Sale

I heard about this today and have spent part of my evening checking out this deal. Sun Country Airlines is offering a deal. For $499 you can fly an unlimited number of flights between September 7 and October 13. I think we might just have to go a few places! See this post about how we would rather spend on experiences than stuff.

Sun Country Airlines : Fare Sale

Jet Blue is offering a similar deal as well: Jet Blue All you can Jet

Get traveling!

Monday, August 16, 2010

New credit card functionality lets you set limits

Very interesting article in the New York Times. Mastercard is coming out with new functionality for their Citibank cards to help you control your spending. You can set pre-determined limits for specific expenses, such as restaurants or iTunes, and your card will be declined if you attempt to make a purchase above your limit. You can also block transactions from certain countries or websites, or only allow the cards to be used in certain states. The possibilities are endless. What an interesting way to manage your budget or your kids' allowance.

Your card has been declined, just as you wanted

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Dollar Store Let-Down

I had what I thought was a successful trip to the Dollar Store yesterday. Got three bins for storing toys, a picture frame, and a box of five mocha cappuccino mix packets. Imagine my anger today when I opened the box of cappuccino and found only four packets! The box was clearly mis-labeled. I guess I should have listened to my own advice in this post about buying food at the Dollar Store. Oh well!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Groupon Update: We used it!

Today was a big day. My husband used the Groupon we bought a few weeks ago. It cost $15 and was for a $30 haircut at Regis Salons. He called one of the participating locations this morning and made an appointment for a couple hours later. When he got there, he told the stylist he had a Groupon. When it came time to pay, he tipped the stylist and then handed over the Groupon.

Overall, the Groupon experience was good. He paid $15 for the Groupon and $6 for the tip, for a total of $21. The same haircut with tip would have been $36 otherwise. However, the experience at Regis was not what he expected for the price. He said it felt like just one step up from Great Clips, where the haircut costs $15 plus $4 tip. (not a huge surprise since Regis and Cost Cutters are owned by the same company) It was not as relaxing or pampering as the experience at the LifeTime Fitness Lifespa which has comparable prices.

We would use Groupon again, and it was a good way to try out a business we hadn't used before. Unfortunately we will not return to Regis to pay full price! He will return to Great Clips, where the price  (low) matches the ambiance (OK).

Friday, August 13, 2010

Target online coupons

I've used Target's printable coupons before, but noticed this week that they have some really good ones. In the past, almost all of the coupons were for national brands such as Pillsbury and Gillette. Now, there are many for Archer Farms, Up and Up, and Market Pantry available. Here are some coupons I printed this week:

- $1 off fresh produce
- $1 off Market Pantry frozen fish
- 50 cents off Up and Up multipack razors
- Free Market Pantry frozen vegetable with purchase of Market Pantry frozen chicken
- $1 off Market Pantry ice cream

You should give the coupons a try! Here's the link to the coupon page on Target.com.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Thrifty Recipe- Simple Grilled Salmon

It's summer, what a great time to break out the grill. This is a favorite recipe because it involves ingredients we usually have around the house. And the marinating time is only 15-30 minutes so we can make a last-minute decision to have this and the fish is ready by the time the grill is warmed up.
Tip: Make sure to well-oil the grill grate so the salmon doesn't stick to it. Do this by heating up the grill, then using a wire brush to get rid of any old drippings/dirt from the grate. Then, use tongs to rub a paper towel dipped in vegetable oil on the grate several times.

Simple Salmon
From Weber's Big Book of Grilling

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup dijon mustard
3 Tablespoons prepared horseradish
2 Tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon rice vinegar
6 salmon fillets with skin, about 6 oz each and one inch thick (I have made this with fresh salmon from the butcher and with individually frozen salmon filets- thawed of course, both worked great)

1. In a medium bowl, whisk all ingredients except salmon until smooth
2. Place the salmon filets in a large resealable plastic bag and pour in all but 1/3 cup of the marinade. Press the air out of the bag and seal tightly. Turn the bag to distribute the marinade and refridgerate for 15-30 minutes.
3. Remove the filets from the bag and discard marinade. Grill the fillets, skin side down, over indirect high heat until opaque throughout, about 10-12 minutes. During the last 2 minutes of grilling time, brush with the 1/3 cup of reserved marinade. Slide a spatula between the skin and flesh and transfer to serving plates. Serve warm.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

New blog layout

I spent some time on Blogger today trying some different blog layouts. This one is an improvement in some ways (you can now link an individual post to Facebook, Blogger, and some other social networking sites, my logo is properly aligned) but I feel like it might still be a bit plain. At one point I had put a background of dollar bills around the edge, but my husband pointed out that this blog isn't "all about the money," there is more to it than that.

Any suggestions for blog layout/theme changes? And again, any other topics you'd like to see me cover?

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Craigslist Success Story

Last night my in-laws invited us to go boating this Wednesday night. We said sure, but realized that we didn't have a life jacket for our six month old. Hopped on Craigslist and found the following post:

I have 5 Life jackets for sale. All of them are for children. The weights range up to 60 lbs and the chest area measures 15 - 25". The inside tags say Child / Small / Infant . All have working straps and no holes.

Going from left to right.....
KENT brand life vest (red and blue)
KENT brand life jacket ( pink )
Ariel The Little Mermaid with Ariel and small sea creatures on it
Basic bright orange made by STEARNS
Cute Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck ( unisex )


Score! I emailed, and she answered me back within an hour with her availability for today and phone number. I drove over this morning and came home with an infant vest as well as a kids' vest (the far right Mickey Mouse one and the pink one) for a total of $8. She had been asking $5 each. They have a few stains, but are Coast Guard approved and in good working shape.

Have you had any Craigslist successes lately?

Monday, August 9, 2010


Artwork from the New York Times

I read an interesting article in the New York Times today.  Studies have shown that when we spend our money on experiences instead of "stuff," we are happier. To paraphrase a quote from the article, it's better for your emotional health to spend money on a memorable vacation with a loved one than on a new couch. It has also been found that the anticipation and planning for a purchase is a big part of the enjoyment you get. I agree with this article. For me, half the fun of a trip or a big purchase is the planning, research, list-making.... you get the idea. And my husband and I definitely spend more of our discretionary money on experiences than "stuff," which is why a lot of what I write about is how to save money on that stuff!

Article about spending money and happiness

Sunday, August 8, 2010

A day of rest

I'm taking a day of rest today to enjoy the weather and my family. Please do the same!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Money Magazine's Personal Finance Blog

I came across a blog I hadn't seen before, the Money Magazine personal finance blog. I like the title: More Money. Looks like there are some interesting and diverse topics to learn about. Here's the link:

More Money- Money Magazine's Personal Finance Blog

Friday, August 6, 2010

Two months of Thirty and Thrifty

It's hard to believe that this blog has been going for two months now. That's over 60 thrifty posts! I've had a lot of fun and I hope you've enjoyed my writing so far. Maybe you've even learned something new.

What suggestions do you have? Any topics you'd like me to cover that I haven't yet?

Looking forward to your responses!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Thrifty Strategy- Making Sushi

My husband and I love sushi. We have a favorite local sushi place, but dinner there usually runs about $50 for the two of us. For my 30th birthday, my husband got me an awesome gift- everything we need to make sushi at home.
A picture of our first homemade sushi meal

Here is the equipment/ingredients we have:
- Sushi rice
- Pickled ginger
- Chopsticks
- Bamboo mat
- Wooden rice paddle (already had wooden bowl)
- Sushi Knife
- Sushi cookbooks
- Wasabi powder
- Little dishes for soy sauce and cool plates for serving
- The Sushezi (as seen on TV!)
- Seaweed wraps (each package will last for a few sushi-making sessions)

Each time we make sushi, we go to a grocer and get sushi-grade fish from the butcher. Our favorite is yellowfin tuna. I usually get about a quarter pound. We also often get some cooked and deveined shrimp or smoked salmon. Other fun ingredients include "fake crab" sticks, avacado, cucumber, and cream cheese. Each time we made a batch, I probably spend about $12 on ingredients.

We've made sushi three times now, and it is awesome! It takes awhile to make, but that is half the fun! I encourage you to give it a try. And if raw fish isn't your thing, there are still lots of options. Enjoy.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Pay-as-you-go cell phones

It's been a busy day, so no long post tonight. Check out this article from the New York Times on pay-as-you-go cellphone plans. Sounds like they might be a good thrifty option for some people. My first cell phone was this type, and my parents recently switched to a bare-bones plan like this as well.

Cellphone Service by the Day, Month, or Tankful

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Thrifty Strategy- Making baby food

Today was a big day. My daughter turned six months old today (can't believe it), and what better way for her to celebrate than by trying peas for the first time! After successful eating of rice cereal, unsweetened applesauce, and some avocado, I decided it was time to bust out the cute little grinder I had registered for and make some baby food.

Even better, Target had their Market Pantry frozen peas on sale for 99 cents this week.

First, I steamed about 3/4 cup of peas on the stove. Then I let them cool. I used my little hand grinder to grind them up and got....

Yummy! I tried it and it tastes really good. The whole process took about 10 minutes. It was a bit thick for our daughter, so I mixed her serving with a little breastmilk. She seemed to like it. This little container above probably has enough in it for four or so servings. I still have over 3/4 of the bag of peas left. Talk about thrifty! And it feels really good to know exactly what she's eating.

In the future, I plan to use my giant Cuisinart food processor to make large batches of baby food to freeze, but the hand grinder is great for making small amounts so that we can make sure she will eat it before we go nuts making a huge batch. Or if I'm going to make a veggie for dinner, I could just steam some extra and grind it for her to eat when we are eating.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Thrifty Strategy- Taking the bus part two

Anyone who knew me through my former job knows I was a huge fan of taking the bus to and from work. I was a dedicated daily bus rider on Southwest Transit here in the Twin Cities. It was great to just drive 10 minutes or so to a park and ride, then take a nap, read, or do nothing for the 35 minutes it took to get downtown or home. Sure, there were some long waits for a bus and a few two-hour rides during snowstorms. But I'd much rather be sitting back and relaxing than driving myself through a blizzard!

Taking the bus or other public transportation is often a very thrifty strategy. Many employers and colleges offer discounted transit passes that can help lower your costs. In a large city, the cost of daily parking can run up very quickly. And don't forget gas and wear and tear on your car. The IRS deduction rate per mile for 2010 is 50 cents. Use that to calculate your commuting cost. Daily mileage times 50 cents per mile, plus the cost of parking. Does that number surprise you? Maybe it's time to look at other options...

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Thrifty Strategy- Taking the bus

Part One: Long-distance bus riding

Several years ago, I remember some friends taking the Greyhound from Madison to Minneapolis for the weekend. They had quite interesting stories about the "interesting" people and situations they went through during the trip. I took the Better Bus from Madison to Minneapolis for spring break once, and it was great. They have snacks and play movies onboard. I also used Badger Bus quite often to get from Madison to Milwaukee and back again (and in looking at their site I see that they now offer weekend service from Milwaukee and Madison to LaCrosse and the Twin Cities, very cool).

In the past couple years, I have seen the Megabus on I-94 between Milwaukee and Minneapolis and have wondered what it's like. A friend I used to work with took it once and said it was nice. Then I saw a reprinted article from the New York Times today about the resurgence of long-distance express busses. The Humble Bus Takes Off Sounds like it's the way to go!

Have any bus stories to share?

Coming tomorrow will be part two- local busses/mass transit